Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Through Irish Eyes
Ireland, though small geographically, has produced many notable and influential people who have shared their talents and achievements with the world. Writers Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and, more recently, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, have left us with words and images that continue to affect us all. International peace negotiator Mary Montague and musician and humanitarian Bono, of U2 fame, show Ireland’s diversity, as do boxing champions Barry McGuigan and Wayne McCullough.
As impressive as the list might be, the most important people to me are my ancestors, the Quigleys and Maxwells, who were among the 250,000 who immigrated to America to escape devastating poverty brought on by the potato famine that affected Ireland from 1845 to 1852. My grandfather, John S. Quigley, was very proud of his Irish heritage. I will never forget hearing him sing old Irish folk songs while on our walks to the post office. He taught me to keep my eyes on the ground as not to miss the chance to find a four-leaf clover. He shared stories with my brother, sister and I about the sacrifices his parents had made to give the family a better life. I will always cherish those memories and the lessons learned, especially as we gathered around the dinner table to share a pot of Irish stew.
In life, we all face difficult challenges. I was recovering from a major health crisis when one of my dearest friends suggested that I needed to celebrate my turn around by taking a trip. When asked where I would like to go, I answered without hesitation: Ireland.
It wasn’t long before we set out on an 11-day adventure covering 13 cities and 1100 miles in the hope of connecting with my family home land.
In Ireland and Great Britain, vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road than in the U.S and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. I certainly had a time adjusting to that as I sat on the passenger side trying to slow the car by pushing my foot on the floorboard as we rolled along twisted, windy side roads at what seemed like breakneck speed. However, from what I remember, the view was spectacular. I was able to catch my breath when we abruptly stopped to allow a herd of sheep to cross the road.
Although I have long been a vegetarian, I was knocked off my game with the food, especially a breakfast of homemade bread, eggs, mushrooms, beans, fried potatoes, tomatoes and ham. It was so good, I found myself getting up early just to sit at our bed and breakfast table each morning.
Through it all, I found myself falling in love with the beauty of Ireland’s natural landscape: the small and beautiful cottages, the rolling green countryside and the fresh, clean air. However, what I will always remember most are the friendly and beautiful people who make up this amazing Emerald Isle called Ireland.